Monthly Archives: June 2010

Daring Bakers: Chocolate Pavlovas with Almond Butter Cream

I’m definitely doing this challenge at the last minute – I decided to start the day it was due. I literally just finished plating one for the photo above! Normally, this wouldn’t be too much of an issue, but this time, I opted to make a dairy-free cream using a technique I’d never tried before. It was indeed an experiment – one I hoped I could pull off!

The June 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Dawn of Doable and Delicious. Dawn challenged the Daring Bakers to make Chocolate Pavlovas and Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse. The challenge recipe is based on a recipe from the book Chocolate Epiphany by Francois Payard.

I was excited that the challenge was naturally gluten-free. Hooray – less substitutions! However, the chocolate mascarpone mousse was not dairy-free. It called for cream and mascarpone cheese. Creating a substitute was something I contemplated for quite a few days. I knew that I saw a dairy-free cream cheese at the store, made from tofu. I strongly considered using that and coconut milk as a substitute for the cream, and following the rest of the recipe as written. I even picked up the tofu cream cheese at the store and carried to the checkout line. It was then that I decided I didn’t want it – I am not fond of the flavor of most soymilk products, and I really didn’t want to use tofu cream cheese. I put it back. I would come up with another idea.

A few days later, Noelle of An Opera Singer in the Kitchen turned me on to this raw, vegan, dairy-free cheesecake made from soaked cashews. (Available at Earth Cafe) Noelle insisted that those cheesecakes were amazing, and I was convinced that in the near future, I’d be ordering one to see for myself. Meanwhile, she also shared with me a new blog to check out, The Daily Raw Cafe, where a similar cheesecake recipe could be found. I was inspired.

Instead of making a chocolate mascarpone mousse, I opted for something a touch lighter – almond butter cream and strawberries. I set to make the cream, soaking cashews and blending them, adding coconut milk, almond butter, lemon…and the resulting texture and flavor of this cream was silky and rich. I can only imagine how lovely this would taste in a cheesecake – it was lovely here.

My pavlovas were piped a bit thinner than I’m used to. (The last time I made a pavlova, it was a more traditionally large, fluffy cake-like dessert) However, they were deliciously crisp and chewy, with a lovely chocolate marshmallow-like flavor. Topped with the rich cream and fresh strawberries, this was indeed a lovely summer dessert. I would love to try this again, making a large pavlova next time around. A bit thanks to Dawn for this month’s challenge!

Chocolate Pavlova

3 large egg whites

1/2 c plus 1 T granulated white sugar

1/4 c powdered sugar

1/3 c cocoa powder

Place two racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 200 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment or a Silpat and set aside.

In a mixing bowl, whip the egg whites to soft peaks. Add the white sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, whipping until the whites are stiff but not dry.

Sift the powdered sugar and cocoa powder over the whites, and fold gently in. This will not appear as though it will blend at first, but keep folding and it will come together.

Place into piping bag and pipe into desired shapes on the lined baking sheets. Alternatively, you can spoon out the meringue into circles and spread out evenly with the back of a spoon.

Bake for 2-3 hours (I baked mine for 2), until crisp. Allow to cool. You can store these in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Almond Butter Cream

2 c raw cashews, soaked for 2 hours in water

1/2 c agave nectar

3 T water

1 c coconut milk

1 t vanilla extract

½ t almond extract

6 T almond butter

Zest of 1 lemon

Juice of 1 lemon

Pinch sea salt

 Soak the cashews in water for at least an hour. Drain and add cashews, agave nectar, vanilla and almond extracts, and the water, 1 tablespoon at a time, into a blender. Blend until creamy, and add the coconut milk, almond butter, lemon zest, juice, and salt. Blend until smooth. Place in a bowl covered with plastic wrap and store in freezer for 1 hour or until thick, stirring once or twice during that time.

To assemble pavlovas:

Top each pavlova with 1-2 tablespoons of the almond butter cream. Top with sliced strawberries and serve immediately.

What I’ve Learned In A Year, Gluten-Free

It dawned on me this morning that today was a significant day. One year ago today, I decided to go gluten-free for a 2-month trial. But unlike a previous attempt at a gluten-free diet, this time, I would be overly cautious. This time, I would give my body time to decide whether gluten was a problem. And when I “challenged” in August (Meaning I consumed gluten. Consumed is such an understatement. I scarfed down a roll, some bulgur salad, and a piece of chocolate cake. Yikes!), I knew. All of those symptoms that had slowly abated came rushing back. I was sick – sick enough to know for sure that for my body, gluten was the enemy.

I would love to say that changing to a gluten-free diet was as simple as turning on a light switch. It wasn’t. I thought it would be relatively simple – after all, I have cooked for my Dad, brother, and sister many times, and they have all followed gluten-free diets for years. But cooking for someone once in a while and living the gluten-free life are two different things. There was indeed a learning curve – and I’m still learning. But I am still so thankful for making the decision to go gluten-free. While it’s definitely not a decision everyone should make, it has changed my life for the better. I thought I’d share some things I’ve learned during my journey this past year, in hopes that my lessons learned can help others that are just starting out.

Start with fresh, whole, naturally gluten-free foods. This is not only easier to learn (there’s no label-reading on a piece of fresh fruit), it’s easier on a sensitive, still-healing digestive system. While it’s normal to want a gluten-free version of your favorite old gluten-filled dishes, it’s best for your body – and your wallet – to keep the purchase and consumption of processed, packaged, or even homemade gluten-free “replacement” foods to a minimum. Allow yourself to heal and nurture your body with real food.

Listen to your body. Many times, those of us with gluten issues have overly sensitive digestive systems. Some of us will have intolerances to other foods in addition to gluten. Over the past year, I’ve learned that my body can’t handle being overtaxed, and it just doesn’t like a lot of things. I have recently removed dairy from my diet as a result, and I limit my consumption of sugars and processed foods. If I’m having a particularly rough day, I revert back to what my body seems to handle best – whole, natural foods with very little done to them. (see above)

Be patient. For some, removing gluten from their diet meant they saw immediate, drastic improvement, almost overnight. For me, and for a lot of others, this wasn’t the case. Some symptoms disappeared pretty quickly – I was no longer exhausted, I could think clearly, my feet and hands stopped swelling and tingling, and within a few months, my chronic heartburn went away. But some  took longer. My digestive system is still sensitive, so I know I’m still healing. But I do see small improvements – things that used to bother me before are more tolerable now. But just because I’m not 100% better a year later doesn’t mean that the gluten-free diet isn’t working. I know it is. It just takes time. (If someone could tell that to my desires for things like cakes, pies, cookies, etc., that would be great.)

Speak up. I am not one to want to make a big deal out of things. I don’t like feeling as though I’m “high-maintenance”. When I visited a restaurant, or was invited to someone’s house, I didn’t like asking a bunch of questions about what was in the meal, how it was prepared, etc. I felt like I was drilling people. And at first, I paid the price for my lack of thoroughness. I learned the hard way that I must be an advocate for my health, and I couldn’t be shy about asking the required questions. Now, I have overcome this “shyness”. If I am going to eat someone else’s food, I ask a lot of questions. I have to. I remind myself to try to see it as an opportunity for education. If the restaurant is willing to listen carefully and accommodate me, and they come to understand my needs, it’s a win-win for both of us. I become a loyal, repeat customer for them, and I have a place where I can relax and enjoy my meal. When it comes to visiting friends, I feel it’s also an opportunity for education. I have some friends that are truly wonderful – they research and learn what is safe for me to eat, and have accommodated me. For that, I’m truly grateful. For those times when I’m unsure of the food, I make alternate plans for my meal, so I’m not taking chances on my health. Which brings me to my next point.

Plan ahead. If you will be away from the house for a while, make sure you pack safe snacks or a meal. If you are traveling, make plans to bring snacks and even possibly meal components (or scope out a good grocery store, if possible, where you will be staying). This way, you won’t be so hungry that you are tempted to risk questionable meals. If you find yourself in a situation where you have to attend a dinner where none of the food being served is “safe”, then you will have a snack handy to enjoy, and you can still participate in the social aspects of the meal. Some good, portable snacks include: Lara Bars, KIND bars, fresh fruit, nuts and dried fruits, gluten-free crackers (I love Mary’s Gone Crackers), carrot and celery sticks, or even hard-boiled eggs. If you travel often, Shirley at Gluten-Free Easily travels often while following a gluten-free diet, and she navigates quite well! You might consider checking out her blog for some tips.

Read labels carefully. Become intimately aware of where gluten lurks in processed foods. While eating processed foods all of the time isn’t good for anyone, for those with gluten intolerance, they can be particularly difficult. Gluten can turn up in a lot of things that you wouldn’t expect – vitamins, shampoo, lipstick, condiments, broths, sauces, marinades, spices, etc. There are a lot of ingredients listed on labels that may mean that the item contains gluten, but those ingredients are not always obvious. There is a helpful list here to help you determine whether an item is safe. If you are still unsure, don’t use the item. You can contact the manufacturer for more information, or you can also use resources to assist you in determining whether the item is safe. Triumph Dining is one such resource, but there are others. (There is even an iPhone app for that!) Make sure you read labels every time you purchase an item – even if it was safe before, the manufacturer may have changed the ingredients.

Allow yourself to be human. It’s okay, especially at the beginning, to grieve. It’s okay to be angry, frustrated, or sad about the change in your lifestyle. You might feel left out of certain things. You might feel like no one understands. Some days, it might just feel like it’s just too hard. That’s totally understandable. It’s during these times when a good, solid support system is essential. Your support system can always be your family and friends (I know I owe so much to my husband – he has had to learn so much throughout this process, and he’s been supportive, understanding, and flexible. Without him, I think there might have been times I would have gone crazy!), but there are also support groups out there. The Gluten Intolerance Group has a lot of branches in North America, for instance. There are also a huge number of gluten-free bloggers out there – my gluten-free blog friends have been a great source of support for me!

Fall in love with what you CAN eat. There is a bounty of delicious, gluten-free food out there. Once I mourned my “loss” of gluten-y foods, I began to shift my focus, not on what I can’t eat, but what I can eat. There is so much to enjoy. Right now, we are in the middle of the best time of year for fresh, delicious foods – I can’t get enough of summer’s juicy berries, fresh zucchini and squash, okra, tomatoes, peppers, onions, herbs, peaches…the list goes on and on. The possibilities for recipes with all of these foods are endless!

For those of you that also must adhere to diet restrictions, what lessons have you learned? What tips do you have to share?

Guest Post at Ginger Lemon Girl – Quick & Easy Gluten-Free

Carrie at Ginger Lemon Girl has been hosting a 30-day series called 30 Day Gluten Free Quick  & Easy. Each day, she has a different guest blogger share a recipe that takes less than 20 minutes to prepare and is healthy and fresh! This is definitely a series I can get into. While I love to spend my free time in the kitchen and love to cook, sometimes, there just isn’t free time! This series will definitely generate some great speedy recipes for those times. I am sharing a gluten-free egg and vegetable wrap at Ginger Lemon Girl today. Visit here to check it out, and while you’re there, browse around for other great quick & easy gluten-free recipes!

Check Out The CSA Goods!

I realized the other day that I haven’t been all that vocal about my new source of fresh produce. Amy at Simply Sugar and Gluten Free, a food blogger friend of mine, turned me on to a local farm that was looking for CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) members. So this spring, I signed up with Squeezepenny Sustainable Farm in McKinney, Texas. This share, shown in the picture, is the fourth out of 6 shares I’ll receive from the farm. (I’m about to sign up to continue my next 6 shares!) This week, I happily carried home the following locally, sustainably raised items:

Blueberries

Eggplant

Swiss Chard

Yellow Summer Squash

Red and Yellow Onions

Garlic

Pickling Cucumbers

Dill

Okra

Zucchini

Jalapenos

Shallots

(In past shares, I’ve also received a variety of lettuces, kale, mizuna, celery, carrots, peaches, and a variety of herbs.) I love receiving our shares – it’s an adventure of sorts, really. I pick it up while visiting the farmers market on Saturday mornings, and then work to incorporate those vegetables and fruits into our weekly meals. I’ve already prepared the swiss chard – I simply sauteed chopped leaves and stems in a bit of olive oil, and tossed in some dried cranberries (soaked in hot water) and a handful of toasted, slivered almonds. I plan to make ratatouille later in the week to use some of the zucchini and eggplant. The blueberries will likely be snacked on for breakfast by yours truly. I never usually make “plans” for garlic and onions – they’re used so much in our everyday cooking that they’re always welcome. I will likely cook the okra along with some jalapenos in a similar manner to this recipe, and who knows, the yellow squash might become a dairy-free version of a recipe I’ve tried at Pinch My Salt, along with the dill. As for the rest, I’m sure it will be incorporated into salads and other recipes. What always remains the same? The produce from this CSA couldn’t be fresher or more delicious.

Interested in finding out whether there is an opportunity near you to join a CSA? Check out Local Harvest and search!

Kids in the Kitchen: Farm-Fresh Strawberry Gelato, Two Ways

For the next few weeks, Kids in the Kitchen is changing just a bit. Rather than discussing with the kids what they want to make days beforehand, we are instead visiting the farmers market on Saturday mornings for inspiration. This is all part of my hope that they’ll choose something fresh, healthy, and delicious to incorporate in their meal. We’re entering peak growing season, and they have so much to choose from that we figured it would be great fun! Brittany and I walked the farmers market this morning, and once she laid eyes on some Texas-grown strawberries, it was love. We discussed what we could make with the strawberries, and I threw out some suggestions. Ice cream was the decision, and so we bought two baskets (about a pound and a half) and went home.

Since I am now following a dairy-free diet, (something that is new to the kids) Brittany thought it was a good idea to make a bit of “special” ice cream dairy-free, so I could have a bit. (What a sweetheart!) So we made two batches – one full batch of strawberry gelato (I opted not to fuss with eggs and the making of a custard), and one half batch of vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free strawberry gelato. They were extremely simple to make, and emerged from the freezer creamy, pink, and full of sweet strawberry refreshment. It was a perfect compliment to the near-100 degree day.

Strawberry Gelato

12 oz fresh strawberries, hulls removed

1 1/2 c heavy cream

1 c milk

3/4 c white sugar (can substitute agave nectar if desired, just use a bit less – like 1/2 cup)

1 t vanilla extract

1 t fresh lemon juice

Place all of the ingredients in a blender and process until no large strawberry chunks remain. Pour into the bowl of an ice cream maker and process according to the directions on the ice cream maker. Freeze for 3-4 hours or until firm.

Vegan, Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Strawberry Gelato

6 oz strawberries, hulls removed

1 1/4 c coconut milk

1/3 c white sugar (or substitute agave nectar – use slightly less than 1/4 cup)

1/2 t vanilla extract

1/2 t fresh lemon juice

Place all of the ingredients in a blender and process until no large strawberry chunks remain. Pour into the bowl of an ice cream maker and process according to the directions on the ice cream maker. Freeze for 3-4 hours or until firm.

We Have Met The Enemy and He Likes Parsley

When watering the garden this evening, I discovered an invader. My parsley hasn’t been thriving as well as it did last year, and this guy is to blame. (Well, he and his brothers/sisters.) He (or she) is the third caterpillar I’ve plucked from my garden, and by far the largest – about two inches long. After we enjoyed a photo shoot, I moved him far away from my garden. As much I know that he’ll one day become a beautiful butterfly (He is a black swallowtail caterpillar), I would prefer that doesn’t happen at the expense of my garden. Quite a gorgeous caterpillar though – I’m used to the boring green ones, so I was a bit excited to find him!

Daring Cooks: Chicken Liver Pâté and a Gluten-Free Baguette

 Our hostesses this month, Evelyne of Cheap Ethnic Eatz, and Valerie of The Chocolate Bunny, chose delicious pâté with freshly baked bread as their June Daring Cook’s challenge! They’ve provided us with 4 different pâté recipes to choose from, and are allowing us to go wild with our homemade bread choice. Personally, I was so glad to have choices. I immediately knew I wanted to try a chicken liver pâté (I have a fondness for chicken livers), but I needed to search around a bit for a gluten-free bread recipe. I’ve tried various versions, and while most have been satisfactory, they haven’t been amazing.

I modified the chicken liver pâté recipe to be dairy-free by simply substituting canned coconut milk for the cream and beef tallow for the butter. (The end result was not “coconut-y” in flavor at all.) I also inadvertently left out the shallots – whoops – but they weren’t missed. The resulting pâté was creamy, rich, and satisfying. On a slice from the baguette (or on a delicious gluten-free cracker), it was the perfect snack. (I made it the star of our dinner last night!)

As for the baguette, I have to admit, this is the best recipe to date that I have tried. I found it from Living Without, a magazine for people with food allergies and gluten intolerance. The texture was amazing, with a chewy crust and soft center that wasn’t soggy or gummy at all. The loaf wasn’t heavy or dense (most gluten-free breads are like bricks!). It felt like real bread. My only complaint? It tasted like the bean flour, something I’m not terribly fond of. (Everyone has their own preferred baking flours.) I plan to experiment soon, substituting part or all of the bean flour with another high-protein flour. (If anyone has suggestions, I’m all ears!) If you don’t mind the bean flours, I highly recommend this recipe – it’s excellent!

This was a great challenge, and now I have an excellent appetizer recipe available for entertaining in the future!

Chicken Liver Terrine/Pâté
Yields one 25 by 12,5 cm (10 by 5 inch) terrine or loaf pan

1 tbsp duck fat, or butter (I used beef tallow)
2 onions, coarsely chopped
300g (11 oz) chicken livers, trimmed
3 tbsp brandy, or any other liqueur (optional)
100g (3 1/2 oz, 1/2 cup) smoked bacon, diced
300g (11 oz) boneless pork belly, coarsely ground
200g (7 oz) boneless pork blade (shoulder), coarsely ground (or ground pork see note below)
2 shallots, chopped (I omitted these)
1 tsp quatre-épices (or 1/4tsp each of ground pepper, cloves, nutmeg and ginger is close enough)
2 eggs
200 ml (7 fl oz, 3/4 cup + 2 tbsp) heavy cream (I used coconut milk)
2 fresh thyme sprigs, chopped
Salt and pepper

NOTE: If you cannot find ground pork belly or blade, buy it whole, cut it into chunks, and pulse in the food processor. You can also replace the pork blade with regular ground pork.

Preheat oven to 200ºC (400ºF, Gas Mark 6).

Melt the fat or butter in a heavy frying pan over low heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes, until softened. Add the chicken livers and cook, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes, until browned but still slightly pink on the inside.

Remove the pan from heat. Pour in the brandy, light a match and carefully ignite the alcohol to flambé. Wait for the flames to go out on their own, carefully tilting the pan to ensure even flavoring. Set aside.

Put the minced pork belly and blade in a food processor, then add the onion-liver mixture and the chopped shallots, and pulse until you obtain a homogenous mixture – make sure not to reduce it to a slurry.

Transfer to a bowl, and gradually stir in the chopped bacon, quatre-épices, cream, eggs, and thyme. Season with salt and pepper, and mix well. Spoon the mixture into a terrine or loaf pan, and cover with the terrine lid or with aluminum foil.

Prepare a water bath: place the loaf pan in a larger, deep ovenproof dish (such as a brownie pan or a baking dish). Bring some water to a simmer and carefully pour it in the larger dish. The water should reach approximately halfway up the loaf pan.

Put the water bath and the loaf pan in the oven, and bake for 2 hours. Uncover and bake for another 30 minutes. The pâté should be cooked through, and you should be able to slice into it with a knife and leave a mark, but it shouldn’t be too dry. Refrigerate, as this pâté needs to be served cold. Unmold onto a serving platter, cut into slices, and serve with bread.

NOTE: This pâté freezes well. Divide it into manageable portions, wrap tightly in plastic film, put in a freezer Ziploc bag, and freeze. Defrost overnight in the fridge before eating.

Gluten-Free French Baguette recipe can be found here.

One Last Hurrah – Tortilla Soup with Goat Cheese Guacamole

That’s how I felt when eating leftovers of this soup for lunch the other day. This is my last dairy hurrah. You see, a few weeks back, I embarked on a short-term dairy-free diet as a trial, to see if it was causing some lingering issues I was having. After two weeks, I didn’t notice a huge difference, but there was a difference. When I reintroduced it back into my diet, I tried to ignore the truth – that the dairy was making me sick. After all, I didn’t want to give it up – I am a huge fan of all things cheese and butter, and I was even singing the praises of raw milk just the other day. But as much as I love it, dairy doesn’t love me back. So this tortilla soup was my last dairy-containing meal, at least for a long while. You’ll see many recipes in the future that are not only gluten-free, but also dairy-free. (Of course, those of you who can eat dairy without incident are welcome to modify your recipes accordingly!)

This tortilla soup recipe is closely based off of a Quickfire Challenge I saw on Top Chef Masters a few weeks back. Chef Marcus Samuelsson prepared a chicken soup with crispy tortilla strips and goat cheese guacamole that had me drooling. I had to make it. So I visited the recipe found here and filled in the blanks, adjusting to my tastes. And even with the near-100 degree temperatures outside, this soup hit the spot – it was just a touch spicy, bursting with flavor, and the goat cheese guacamole was cooling and fresh.

If I was to make it again (and there will be an “again”), I’d have to modify it to be dairy-free, of course. I’d have to give up the goat cheese in the guacamole, and substitute either almond milk or coconut milk for the cream, but the flavors would still be there in full force. It’s a lovely tortilla soup – no wonder Chef Marcus Samuelsson did so well in Top Chef Masters!

 

Tortilla Soup with Goat Cheese Guacamole, adapted from Marcus Samuelsson

For the guacamole:

1 T olive oil

1 red onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 avocados

Juice from 1 lime

2 T goat cheese

1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped

1/2 red bell pepper, chopped

1 T cilantro, chopped

salt and pepper

Pour the olive oil in a large skillet and heat over medium heat. Add onion and saute for 5 minutes, or until soft. Add garlic and saute for another minute. Remove from heat and place in a bowl. Scoop the avocado flesh and add to bowl. Add goat cheese and smash the avocado, onion, garlic, and cheese together with a fork. Add in lime juice, jalapeno, bell pepper and cilantro and stir. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

For the soup:

4 corn tortillas, cut into strips

Canola oil, for frying

1 red onion, chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 quarts chicken stock

4 tomatoes, chopped

4 c shredded, cooked chicken (I used leftover grilled chicken)

1 1/2 t ground cumin

1 t salt

4 eggs

2 T cream

juice from 2 limes

1 T chopped green onions

1/2 T cilantro, chopped

In a skillet, heat about a half-inch of canola oil over medium heat. Fry tortilla strips in batches until crisp, about 1 minute, and drain on paper towels. Set aside.

In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil. Add onions and saute for 5 minutes or until soft. Add garlic and saute for an additional minute. Add chicken stock and tomatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce to low heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Add cumin, salt, and chicken and stir, and simmer for an additional 5 minutes.

In a bowl, whisk together the eggs and cream. Ladle one or two spoonfuls of the hot soup mixture into the bowl while whisking, and whisk until incorporated. Then pour the egg mixture back into the soup, whisking until incorporated. Allow to cook for another minute, and then add lime juice and half of the green onions and cilantro.

Serve soup topped with the remaining green onions, cilantro, guacamole, and tortilla strips. Serves 4.

2010 World Cup South Africa – Bobotie

This Friday, June 11, 2010, marks the opening day of the 2010 FIFA World Cup games, held in South Africa. Soccer is the most widely played and enjoyed sport around the world, and it’s certainly the most popular sport in our household. My husband has played nearly his entire life, growing up in city leagues, playing for school, and enjoying adult amateur soccer, both indoors and out. He introduced me to indoor soccer – I started playing about 9 years ago (my previous experience was only a single season as a kindergartner – many years ago!), and while I’m not likely to be called up to the WPS anytime soon, it’s a great way to stay in shape, challenge myself, enjoy time with friends, and blow off steam. At home, we subscribe to a lot of specialty cable TV stations, just so my husband can watch as many of his beloved Chelsea games as he can. Of course, when we tune in this Saturday to watch the United States play England, we’ll be cheering our Team USA the whole way.

In anticipation of the upcoming games, I realized I knew next to nothing about South African cuisine. So I worked to educate myself. Turns out, South African cuisine is a “rainbow of cuisines” (as described by Wikipedia), as it is comprised of a variety of sources and cultures, including the cuisines of the indigenous people of South Africa, such as the Khoisan and Xhosa, Zulu and Sotho-speaking people, Indian and British immigrants and their cuisines, the cuisines of the Cape Malay people, and cultures such as Portuguese Mozambique. This makes for a wide variety of dishes and tastes. I was unsure of where to start, so I found one of the most popular dishes in South Africa – bobotie.

Bobotie is a meat dish consisting of ground/minced beef or lamb topped with an egg “custard”. The spices remind me of Indian and Malaysian cuisine, with the use of curry and turmeric, but the inclusion of nuts and fruit reminds me of other African dishes. While it takes a bit of time to make, the dish is relatively straightforward. I sifted through recipes, and decided upon a Martha Stewart recipe that looked tasty. I served it with a cinnamon basmati rice, also a variation on her recipe, which was full of flavor and enticing aromas. It was a tasty meal, and a perfect introduction into South African cuisine. I certainly plan to make another dish or two soon – does anyone have recommendations?

If you wish to browse other South African recipes, check out Meeta’s Monthly Mingle – South Africa Roundup over at What’s For Lunch, Honey? Those dishes all look inviting!

Gluten-Free Bobotie, adapted from Martha Stewart

3 T extra-virgin olive oil

2 medium yellow onions, chopped finely

1 Granny Smith apple, peeled and chopped coarsely

2 T minced fresh ginger

Salt and pepper

1 t ground turmeric

1 1/2 T Madras curry powder

2 lbs ground beef or lamb (I used lean ground bison)

1/2 c (1 oz) slivered almonds, toasted

4 slices gluten-free bread, crusts removed (I used Udi’s whole grain sandwich bread)

1 3/4 c whole milk

2 T mango chutney (or apricot preserves)

2 T fresh lemon juice

4 large eggs

1/8 t freshly ground nutmeg

1 t finely grated lemon zest

4 dry bay leaves

Cilantro and mango chutney as accompaniments (Martha also suggests lemon or lime wedges and unsweetened coconut)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add oil. Add onions, apple, and ginger, and season with salt and pepper. Saute for about 10 minutes or until soft and golden brown. Add turmeric and curry powder and stir to combine. Add the ground meat, breaking into small pieces with a wooden spoon. Cook for 10 minutes or until cooked through. Stir in almonds and cook for 2 more minutes.

Tear the bread into large pieces and place in a small bowl. Add 1/4 cup of milk and 1/2 teaspoon of salt and let stand until the milk is absorbed. Add the bread mixture to the ground meat and cook, stirring frequently, for 1-2 minutes. Stir in mango chutney and lemon juice, scraping up browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Remove from heat, and taste. Adjust seasoning as needed, adding salt and pepper.

Spoon ground meat mixture into a 6 to 8-cup shallow baking dish. Whisk eggs, nutmeg, lemon zest, and remaining milk in a medium bowl. Pour over ground meat mixture. Place bay leaves in dish, pressing into filling just a bit. Bake until set around edges and center is no longer runny, about 35 minutes. Let stand for 15 minutes before serving. Serve with accompaniments and cinnamon basmati rice.

Serves 6.

Cinnamon Basmati Rice, adapted from Martha Stewart

1 T unsalted butter

1 c raw basmati rice, rinsed

1 whole bay leaf

1 cinnamon stick

1 crushed green cardamom pod

2/3 c raisins

2 c water

salt and pepper

Melt butter in medium saucepan over medium heat. Add rice and saute until each grain is shiny and coated with butter mixture. Add bay leaf, cinnamon stick, cardamom pod, and raisins to saucepan. Add water and increase heat to high. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat to a simmer. Allow to cook, covered, until rice is tender, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand 5 minutes more. Fluff and remove bay leaf, cinnamon stick, and cardamom pod. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

Serves 4-6.

Kids in the Kitchen: Sausage and Biscuits

When Matt mentioned that he wanted to make sausage biscuits this weekend, my heart smiled. As I’ve gravitated more towards whole, natural foods, I stopped enjoying those corn syrup-laden, processed breakfast sausages that are available in the stores. (I know, I know, I could make my own, and I probably will some day, but corners have to be cut somewhere, sometimes!) But since I discovered Truth Hill Farm and their natural hot breakfast sausage, with no corn syrup, nitrites, or MSG,  I’m in love with sausage once again. I was glad Matt chose this breakfast option!

We made the biscuit recipe I’ve posted previously, subbing Pamela’s Pancake and Baking Mix for the gluten-free flours and of course, omitting the chives. We also used some lovely raw, whole milk from Lucky Layla farms – I am so glad to have raw milk available to me! I wish it was more widely available (like most of the States, it is only legal to sell raw milk on the farm property), but I am fortunate that the farm is only a brief detour on my way home from the office. Over the years, I’ve become less and less of a milk drinker. It just didn’t taste all that good to me, and while I’m not lactose intolerant, it just never made me feel “good”. But this stuff? It’s like liquid gold – creamy, sweet, and satisfying – and it is nourishing. (If you’re interested in finding a source of raw milk near you, and also learning more about the benefits of raw milk, check out realmilk.com.)

Anyway, back to the sausage and biscuits. I did make one minor error – I did not reduce the baking powder to compensate for leavening already in the Pamela’s mix. Whoops. They expanded and spread a bit more than we wanted, so a sausage biscuit sandwich wasn’t attainable. No matter – they still tasted light and flaky, and we still enjoyed them just the same! (I do need to nail down something besides a drop biscuit for sandwich-type situations, though.)

Check out the recipe for the biscuits here. Serve with your favorite sausage, and wash it all down with a glass of milk.